Sedona vs Flagstaff

Sedona vs Flagstaff: Which Town Is Best for You?

Written By: author image Kyle Cash
author image Kyle Cash
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.

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Discover the stunning scenery of Northern Arizona! Plan your visit to Sedona and Flagstaff. Explore Sedona vs Flagstaff to find your perfect getaway.


Ever found yourself caught in the throes of indecision, trying to choose between two equally tempting travel destinations?

Well, I’ve got another here for you: Flagstaff or Sedona! 

Two jewels located in northern Arizona, each of these two towns with its unique allure — one, a sun-drenched, red-rocked paradise; the other, a fantastic mountain retreat.

And you’re there, stuck in the middle, wondering, “Sedona or Flagstaff? Where the heck should I go?” 

Let’s weigh the allure of Sedona’s mystical vortexes against the rugged charm of Flagstaff’s peaks, compare the munch-worthy delights of Sedona’s cafes with the lip-smacking goodness of Flagstaff’s brewpubs, and pit the cozy B&Bs of Sedona against the comfy lodges of Flagstaff.

Just a quick heads up, though. This isn’t a competition.

Flagstaff and Sedona are like two sides of a golden Arizona coin. Each has its own distinct appeal and unique offerings. But I get it — vacation days are precious. You want to make the most of your time.

So with that said, let’s dive in!

An overview of Sedona and Flagstaff 

Ah, Sedona.

This enchanting desert town, Sedona, is surrounded by striking red-rock buttes and steep canyon walls and sits around an hour south of Flagstaff.

Sedona landscape

And it’s like a siren’s call to the wanderlust-laden soul. Imagine — the sun setting over the mesmerizing landscapes, turning the world into an artist’s palette of reds, oranges, and purples. Vortexes also dot the area — energy centers that are said to be conduits of spiritual and creative forces — serve as the cherry on top of the mystical Sedona sundae.

No wonder this city has a reputation for being a spiritual hotspot. And yet, there’s more to this city than mystical energy and stunning vistas.

When it comes to food, art, and adventures, Sedona is a Jack-of-all-trades (and a master of many!).

AspectSedonaFlagstaff
FoodSedona is a culinary paradise, offering a wide variety of food options. From local eateries to high-end restaurants, your palate is in for a treat.Flagstaff can hold its own when it comes to food. It’s home to some of the most delicious eats in the state. The range might not be as wide as Sedona’s, but it doesn’t disappoint.
ArtSedona is brimming with galleries and studios. The city has a vibrant art scene that attracts artists and art lovers worldwide.Though not as artistically inclined as Sedona, Flagstaff has a respectable arts scene. The city hosts numerous art events and has a few notable galleries.
AdventuresSedona offers a wide array of adventures, from hiking to spiritual journeys. It’s a hotspot for those seeking an adrenaline rush or a chance to breathe in nature.Flagstaff is an adventurer’s dream. It’s a gateway to the Grand Canyon and offers numerous outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and mountain biking.

But let’s not forget about Flagstaff.

Oh no, Flagstaff isn’t to be outdone. This rustic city, with its charming historic downtown and backdrop of the San Francisco Peaks, has a charm all its own. It’s a city where you can sip on a frothy pint of locally brewed beer while gazing at the snow-capped peaks. It’s a city where you can walk through pine forests, lose yourself in the music of a local band, or marvel at the universe in one of the world’s best stargazing spots.

Flagstaff is located around 50-minute drive north of Sedona. And like Sedona is for spiritual seekers, Flagstaff also attracts nature lovers, history buffs, foodies, and astronomers.

Let’s not forget — it’s also a winter wonderland. 

So, which one is better, you ask?

Well, that’s like asking me to choose between chocolate and cheese — an impossible task if you ask me!

But don’t worry. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty details of hotels, food, activities, and scenery in both cities, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to help you decide where to unpack your suitcase in Arizona.

After all, whether it’s Sedona’s mystical allure or Flagstaff’s rustic charm, both cities are filled with their unique brand of magic.

Where to eat: Sedona vs Flagstaff 

Now, let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects — food.

And boy, oh boy, are you in for a treat in both Sedona and Flagstaff! Both towns have great restaurants that would make any foodie’s heart flutter with joy. 

Where to eat in Sedona

Starting with Sedona, it’s a total paradise for cafe lovers.

Picture this — you’re sitting on a terrace, sipping your morning coffee, surrounded by gorgeous red rock formations. Not a bad way to start your day, eh?

And there are tons of places like this in Sedona!

Here are a few cafes to check out in Sedona:

  • Indian Gardens Cafe & Market – Nestled in Oak Creek Canyon, it’s the perfect spot for a laid-back brunch. And their avocado toast? Out of this world!
  • Secret Garden Cafe – This gem offers fantastic views with your meal. Fresh ingredients, creative dishes, and a peaceful ambiance – it’s got it all.
  • Coffee Pot Restaurant – With 101 omelets on their menu, you’ll have difficulty deciding what to eat. Also, the sunset views are stunning!

Where to eat in Flagstaff

On the other hand, Flagstaff is the land of brewpubs, and there are plenty scattered around the town.

Craft beer enthusiasts, this is where you’ll want to be.

Here are some of the top brewpubs I recommend:

  1. Historic Barrel + Bottle House – They’ve got a wide range of beers, and their pulled pork tacos are to die for.
  2. Mother Road Brewing Company – A relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff, and fantastic beer. What more could you ask for?
  3. Dark Sky Brewing Company – Not only do they have an impressive beer list, but they also offer pizzas with exciting flavor combinations. Beer and pizza – a match made in heaven!

Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a beer buff, both Sedona and Flagstaff have you covered. It’s all about what tickles your tastebuds – a quiet cafe with stunning views or a buzzing brewpub with a lively ambiance.

So, what’ll it be – Sedona’s cafes or Flagstaff’s brewpubs? One thing is for sure – you’re not leaving Arizona hungry!

Where to stay: Sedona vs Flagstaff 

Oh, where you’ll rest your weary head after a day of adventure!

Now, I’m not in the business of picking favorites — but it’s hard not to when it comes to Sedona’s bed and breakfasts and Flagstaff’s lodges. These aren’t your regular, run-of-the-mill establishments.

Nope, they radiate charm and personality, making choosing where to stay a delightful dilemma.

Where to stay in Sedona

Let’s start with Sedona, shall we?

Picture a cozy bed and breakfast that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a movie—only it’s real, and you’re the star. You wake up to the scent of freshly brewed coffee, stroll down to a gourmet breakfast, and marvel at the red rock views from your window.

I mean, come on! Who wouldn’t want to experience that?

Here are some of the top hotels to check out in Sedona:

  • El Portal Sedona Hotel: A boutique hotel that offers a unique blend of modern luxury and historical charm, complete with original artwork and handcrafted furnishings. Oh, and did I mention pet-friendly?
  • Adobe Grand Villas: Luxury? Check. Private spa? Check. Warm, fresh-baked bread delivered to your door each day? Big check. This is the life, my friends.
  • Sedona Views Bed and Breakfast: Secluded, romantic, and with a view that’ll make your heart skip a beat. Perfect for those looking to disconnect and reconnect with nature.

Where to stay in Flagstaff

Flagstaff is all about that rustic charm.

You’re in for a treat if you’re into log cabins, roaring fires, and starlit nights. Flagstaff’s lodges are nestled in the heart of the Coconino National Forest – a setting that’ll have you feeling like Thoreau pondering life by Walden Pond. 

Here are some places to lay your head in Flagstaff:

  • Little America Hotel Flagstaff: Set on 500 acres of Ponderosa Pine forest, this place screams serenity. Plus, they’ve got an outdoor pool and hot tub for those starlit dips.
  • Bespoke Inn Flagstaff: A quaint inn with comfortable rooms plus unique shops and award-winning restaurants nearby.
  • Weatherford Hotel: A historic hotel smack-dab in the middle of downtown. A stay here means easy access to local shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Plus, they’ve got a killer Sunday brunch.

Whether you choose Sedona’s plush B&Bs or Flagstaff’s cozy lodges, you’re in for a treat, depending on where you want to stay.

Both cities offer unique experiences that will make your visit to Arizona unforgettable.

So, pick your poison — or should I say, pick your pillow?

What to do: Flagstaff vs Sedona

So, you’re wondering, “What can I do in Sedona and Flagstaff?”

Well, let me tell you, you’re in for a treasure trove of fun things to do and exploration in both places! There are plenty of hiking trails near Flagstaff and Sedona, so you’ll have plenty of outdoor time on your hands.

I’ll break it down for you, point by point, so that you can pick your ideal time. 

What to do in Sedona 

You fancy yourself a bit of an adventurer, huh?

Then Sedona’s got you covered like icing on a cake. Whether your ideal place is deep in an artisanal shop or among the red buttes, you’ll find plenty here.

Sedona has more shops and restaurants compared to Flagstaff, and it’s got plenty of hiking trails to keep you occupied.

Sedona's red rock buttes may sway you in the Sedona vs Flagstaff debate

Let’s dive in (or should I say “hike in”?):

  • Red Rock Scenic Byway: This is a must-do. You can’t visit Sedona and not drive down this road. It’s like going to the beach and not getting sand between your toes—it doesn’t compute.
  • Hiking: With over 100 different trails—ranging from leisurely strolls to sweat-pouring, heart-thumping treks—Sedona is a hiker’s paradise. The Bell Rock Pathway and the Devil’s Bridge Trail are personal favorites.
  • Vortexes: Ever heard of these? Sedona is known for its vortexes—places of concentrated energy that can help with personal enlightenment. Or so they say. It’s worth checking out, if only for the beautiful views.
  • Art Tours: Sedona’s art scene is as vibrant as its red rocks. Art lovers will adore the First Friday Gallery Tours. Free art and wine? Doesn’t sound too bad. Also, be sure to stop by Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village, which is well-known for its art galleries.

What to do in Flagstaff 

Now, let’s switch gears and head to Flagstaff.

If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, then you might fall in love with this place — I know I did. Flagstaff has many hiking trails to choose from. And there’s also Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona.

A fun fact about Humphreys Peak is that you can see as far as the Grand Canyon on a clear day from the summit.

So that’s a pretty cool thing to see if you’re into hiking or trail running!

Picture of the Aspen Loop Trail near Flagstaff

There are so many things to do in Flagstaff:

  • Snow Sports: In winter, the Arizona Snowbowl is the place to be — skiing, snowboarding, you name it. And with the Snowbowl and Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort nearby (home to the Aspen Loop Trail), so you have plenty of options.
  • Hiking: Yes, more hiking. After all, there are over 400 miles of hiking trails in the Flagstaff area. But this time, you’ll be surrounded by towering pines instead of red rocks. Try the Kachina Trail — you won’t regret it.
  • Attractions: Sunset Crater National Monument, Museum of Northern Arizona, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
  • Lowell Observatory: Stars, planets, galaxies — oh my! Space enthusiasts will be over the moon (pun absolutely intended) at this place. It’s where Pluto was discovered, for goodness sake!
  • Route 66: Get your kicks on Route 66! This iconic highway runs right through Flagstaff. It’s like stepping back in time.

So, there you have it — Sedona and Flagstaff in a nutshell.

Whether you fancy red rocks or snowy peaks, art tours, or star gazing, both cities offer a smorgasbord of activities to make your visit unforgettable.

And now, you’re one step closer to picking your Arizonian adventure.

Nightlife: Flagstaff or Sedona

It’s time to talk about nightlife! 

When the sun sets over Arizona, where’s the best place to wet your whistle, shake a leg, or just soak up the local color — Sedona or Flagstaff? I imagine if you’re visiting Sedona or Flagstaff, partying isn’t high on your list.

But everyone enjoys a fun night out from time to time.

So let’s dive in. 

Where to have fun in Sedona 

Now, if you imagine Sedona trips over itself to stay up past its bedtime — think again.

This town isn’t exactly renowned for its nightlife. However, don’t be quick to write it off. Sedona has a charm all its own when the stars come out. 

For starters, you’ve got the classic Sound Bites Grill – offering live performances with some of the best local bands around. And if you’ve worked up an appetite after all that dancing – their food is pretty spectacular too.

But if you’re more of the zen type, how about a Starlight Yoga session under the open sky? 

Where to have fun in Flagstaff 

Flagstaff, on the other hand, is where it’s at if you’re looking to party into the wee hours.

Flagstaff is also home to Northern Arizona University. Ultimately, Flagstaff is a college town, so there are plenty of bars, clubs, and music venues around Flagstaff. It’s like this town is saying, “Hey, let’s have a good time, shall we?” 

High on the list is the Flagstaff Brewing Company. This place serves up some mean craft beers and has a super chill vibe. And if that isn’t enough – live music.

Need I say more?

For those who prefer a more sophisticated night, there’s the Orpheum Theater – offering performances from ballet to rock concerts. 

Affordability: Sedona or Flagstaff

Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room – affordability.

Arizona is not exactly known for being a cheap destination, especially when you’re talking about cities as popular as Sedona and Flagstaff.

But don’t panic just yet — I’ve got the scoop on which city might stretch your dollar further. 

Sedona affordability

First up, Sedona. Known for its high-end resorts and luxurious retreats, Sedona can be a bit pricey. But, between us, doesn’t the thought of sipping a cocktail by the pool, surrounded by awe-inspiring red rocks, sound worth it? I guess it depends on who you are. 

On average, you’re looking at about $200+ a night for a hotel room.

And that’s not even considering the cost of dining in some of Sedona’s top-rated restaurants.

 Flagstaff affordability

Now, allow me to introduce you to Flagstaff—a city that’s kinder to your wallet. Sure, the hotels might not be as swanky as Sedona’s, but they’re definitely more budget-friendly. 

Expect to shell out about $100 a night for lodging.

And the food? It’s a mix of affordable eats and gourmet delights. So, you’re not exactly sacrificing quality for cost. 

But there’s more to affordability than just hotels and food, right? What about the cost of activities?

Well, both cities offer a range of free and paid attractions. Nature lovers will be thrilled to know that in both Sedona and Flagstaff, hiking is free — yes, you heard me, free!

Nothing beats soaking up Arizona’s stunning landscapes without having to spend a dime. 

So, in the battle of affordability, who’s the winner?

Ultimately, Sedona is more expensive than Flagstaff. So if you’re looking to save money, choose Flagstaff.

 SedonaFlagstaff
Hotels (Per Night)Average around $200A little friendlier on the wallet, around $150
Restaurants (Per Meal)Expect to shell out about $25You’re looking at around $20
Activities (Per Activity)A cool $50 on averageMore varying, but let’s say $35
Overall (Per Day)Around $275, not counting your hotelA more budget-friendly $205, excluding hotel costs

If you’re a budget traveler, Flagstaff might be the way to go. But if you’re looking to splurge a little — or a lot — Sedona won’t disappoint. 

Just remember, either Sedona or Flagstaff, the memories you’ll make will be priceless.

Things to see: Flagstaff and Sedona

Alright, folks — let’s talk about what you came here for: the scenery.

Are you ready to be blown away? Because both Sedona and Flagstaff are about to rock your world, albeit in very different ways! 

What to see in Sedona

Sedona has the ‘knock your socks off’, ‘I can’t believe this is real’ kind of beauty.

Imagine dramatic red rock formations — like Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock — jutting from the earth, set against a backdrop of electrifyingly blue skies. It’s like Mother Nature herself became an artist and decided to use the earth as her canvas.

Describing this place doesn’t do it justice, and frankly, even the pictures don’t.

It’s a place you need to see to believe. 

What to see in Flagstaff

Flagstaff is perfect if you’re a fan of lush forests, snow-capped peaks, and that ‘I might be in a fairy tale’ feeling.

Home to the San Francisco Peaks and seated amidst the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest, Flagstaff offers a type of beauty that’s more serene, and more tranquil. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a painting — one with towering trees, meandering rivers, and a whole lot of wildlife.

Some of the top things to see in Flagstaff are:

  • Walnut Canyon National Monument
  • Meteor Crater Natural Landmark

But how close are they in proximity to other major sights?

For example,  they’re about an equal distance from Grand Canyon National Park and Petrified Forest National Park. So no matter where you choose, you can get to some of the best parks in the world easily. But Flagstaff is a bit closer to Antelope Canyon, which is about 3 hours north of Flagstaff.

So if you plan on visiting other areas, you’ll Flagstaff is a bit closer.

What to pack: Sedona vs Flagstaff

If you’re anything like me — and I’m guessing you are, as you’re reading an article comparing two Arizona cities — you appreciate a good climate breakdown.

Sedona and Flagstaff offer vastly different weather experiences, and it’s high time we put them head-to-head. 

What to wear in Sedona 

Sedona, my friends, is fondly known for its mild climate year-round.

Think of warm summers and cool winters. Picture those clear blue skies and sunny days that make you think — “Ah, this is why I love Arizona!” And with an average temperature of 60°F, you’ll have a lot of those!

But be warned, those summer days can inch towards the scorching side. So, if you’re not a fan of the heat, plan your activities accordingly—perhaps an early morning hike or a late afternoon vino at a vineyard.

Winter in Sedona is a chillier affair, but rarely do you see snow. 

What to wear in Flagstaff 

Flagstaff, on the other hand, plays a different tune.

It sits at a higher elevation, making it much cooler. Summers here are pleasant, though you might need to pack a light jacket for those crisp evenings. The weather sits around an average temperature of 43°F.

But winters? Oh, they are a spectacle! Flagstaff transforms into a snowy wonderland — a sight to behold! So, if you’re dreaming of cozying up by a fireplace after a day of snowboarding, Flagstaff might be your winner. 

Quick tip: Pack for the season, but also be ready for some surprises. Arizona weather can be a bit unpredictable, and there’s nothing like being caught off-guard by a sudden downpour or a chilly breeze!

So there you have it!

Whether you’re a sun worshipper or a snow enthusiast, both Sedona and Flagstaff have something to offer. 

But remember, the weather is just one piece of the puzzle.

So where do you choose in the Sedona vs Flagstaff debate?

So, without further ado, let’s wrap things up and reach a verdict: Sedona or Flagstaff? 

Now, don’t go looking at me for a definitive answer!

As I’ve always said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But, I’ll give you the rundown one more time, just to make sure you’re going in with eyes wide open:

  • Sedona: A paradise for nature lovers, spiritual seekers, and those who march to the beat of their own drum. From vortex walks to art galleries to winery tours, Sedona offers a little bit of everything – with a dose of whimsy thrown in for good measure.
  • Flagstaff: Say hello to your laid-back mountain retreat. With skiing, hiking, and an eclectic downtown, Flagstaff is an unpretentious, outdoorsy town that has something for everyone. Oh — did I mention the breweries? Because the beer here is top-notch!

ComparisonSedonaFlagstaff
AtmosphereMystical, warm, and invigoratingRugged, crisp, and refreshing
Food SceneBuzzing café cultureThriving brewpub scene
AccommodationCozy B&BsRustic lodges

So, what’s it going to be, folks? Are you planning to visit the enchantment of Sedona or the down-to-earth charm of Flagstaff?

Well, that’s a question only you can answer.

However, here’s a secret: They’re only about an hour’s drive apart. So why not visit both?

Only jokes (unless you’re serious, then I say go for it!)

author avatar
Kyle Cash Owner
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.